The Family Dinner Project is a national initiative that grew out of Harvard University’s think-tank in the Department of Education. The project’s creator, Shelly London, developed a “multifaceted, multimedia program designed to promote ethical thinking among pre-teens, teens and the adults in their lives”.
Ms. London is not alone in recognizing the importance of shared mealtime to the health of the family as a unit. Educators and physicians alike recognize the physical and mental benefits gained from eating together. This is easier recognized than remedied. Families with two working parents, single parent households, and the over-committed social schedules of our children all make family time problematic, but not impossible.
Sharing a meal is a simple activity that involves all of our senses. The food feeds the body, the conversation feeds the mind and the feeling of belonging to a unit feeds the soul.
Simple fact – eating at home means we are all more likely to consume healthier foods. When we put some thought into planning a family meal we include seasonal fruits and vegetables,more grains, lean protein and considerably less fat .The more time we spend eating at home, the less time we spend grabbing calorie-laden meals on the run.
When the entire family has a daily meal together communication skills flourish. Parents and children become more connected with each conversation. This time gives the opportunity to share ideas, ideals, and values. Family members can learn a lot about each other by using topical conversation starters such as:
- If you were given a million dollars to give to a charity which one would you choose?
- When you wake up in the morning what is the first thing you think about?
- Is it ok to reveal a secret to protect someone?
- What is your favorite family tradition?
Conversation starters like these,thought provoking, stimulating and appropriate for all age levels can be found the “Family Dinner Box of Questions”. Unfortunately, the company that manufactured this set(the Box Girls)went out of business earlier this year, but the collection is still widely available.
Some suggestions for getting everyone to the table:
- No exceptions, no excuses: Make Family Dinner Night a non-negotiable priority. Set a day and time and stick to it.
- Baby steps: Ease into the concept. Begin with one or two nights, and then step back and evaluate the progress. Who knows, this could possibly be the new normal.
- No tech at the table: Make the experience be about interaction with each other. Ban any and all technology-smartphones, iPads, tablets, and television become distractions. Turn them off.
- Have fun: Maybe allow each family member to take a turn selecting a menu, or preparing the meal. Have theme nights. Find ethnic recipes and try new foods. Even order takeout, since we don’t always have the energy at the end of a busy day to cook!
Family meals instill togetherness and help children feel more secure. Meal time is quality time,and is time well spent. The opportunities to foster self-worth, inject core values and offer encouragement and motivation abound around the dinner table.
When we openly acknowledge the importance of family meal time, and outline our expectations, our children will follow suit. This time spent together is a powerful tool in reducing the possibility of high risk behaviors in our young people.
Bringing back family dinner is a mechanism to strengthen the ties that bind parents and children. While all of the problems we experience in our daily lives most certainly can not, and will not, be solved over a shared meal, it is a good start. It is always easier to help your family maintain balance with their mobile devices when you use a mobile parental control software. This is true especially around mealtime, and in a restaurant while waiting for your food to arrive.
Netsanity has a suite of mobile parental control services like their Timeblocker scheduler, can be used regularly around dinner and other important times to ensure that your children and teens enjoy this important time with their family, uninterrupted. If your children and teens habitually feel the need to check up on their friends activity, via a favorite app like Instagram, Netsanity’s Appblocker can be a parent’s best friend. You may restrict that app during mealtime, for example, and avoid the temptation for them to check their smartphone. Netsanity offers a free trial for their monthly plans, so its worth checking out!